Postcard: Salt Lake City 7/28/2020
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I can watch and appreciate most sports.
Soccer is the only one I care about.
At the age of five, I started playing on a gloriously named team: Bohemians. I played in high school as a central midfielder. When I lived in France, the second time, I lined up at left back for a side which was something like a college intramural team that traveled around the city.
I've been a Columbus Crew season ticketholder since 1999, when MAPFRE Stadium (né Crew Stadium) opened.
The Crew won the US Open Cup in 2002 and the Supporters' Shield - best regular season record - in 2004, 2008, and 2009.
As all Crew fans know, however, 2008 was the greatest year in franchise history. We won MLS Cup, Guillermo Barros Schelotto won league MVP, Chad Marshall was named Defender of the Year, and Sigi Schmid - may he rest in peace - won Coach of the Year.
The 2015 MLS Cup final, at home against Portland was... not so great.
I'm not going to say anything about the sonofabitch former owner of the team, Anthony Precourt, but I will say: We Saved the Crew!
And finally, as many good memories as I have in the old stadium, I'm ready for the new one.
I've attended most of the US National Team games in Columbus - including every US/Mexico World Cup Qualifier. The most recent Mexico qualifier (November 2016) was a real gut-punch, a weak performance in the first half followed by bad defending on a set piece at the end of the game.
The following October, we didn't even qualify for the World Cup finals after a dismal match at Trinidad & Tobago.
What will it take for the US to get back to the World Cup, and to go from the mid 20s of the world rankings - where we deserve to be - into the mid to low teens, even the top ten?
Many people claim to have the answers. I still remember how many armchair experts thought José Torres would be our savior on the field in South Africa 2010. Or Jurgen Klinsmann on the sidelines in 2014 and 2018. They weren't. (I blame Torres for nothing and Klinsmann for quite a bit.)
An unshakeable consensus surrounded Gregg Berhalter before he was named head coach in 2018. Will he improve our results at the same time he makes the transition to a new era that neither Klinsmann nor Bruce Arena could? I hope I'm wrong - and I very well might be - but... I don't think he will.
The point is most people are sure about what we need to do to become a world power. I only pay attention to people's certainty on the subject if:
- They have at least a B License, and working experience with the US Soccer bureaucracy, or
- They've played professionally
Otherwise, they're just fans talking shit. They might as well be arguing about formations or best uniforms.
As all Crew fans know... 2008 was the greatest year in franchise history.
Speaking of fans talking shit, here are my favorite players ever. Reasons vary. Not in order, except for the first one:
- Zinedine Zidane - When I saw him at Bordeaux, I knew - immediately - he was special. I realize I'm not the only one.
- Guillermo Barros Schelotto
- Carlos Valderrama
- Paul Scholes
- Dennis Bergkamp
- Andrés Iniesta
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- Thierry Henry
- Clint Dempsey
- René Higuita (see below)
Coach: Sigi Schmid
If you're unfamiliar with René Higuita, check this out. England v Colombia, September 1995. Worth the forty seconds:
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